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Song of an old general – Wang Wei

When he was a youth of fifteen or twenty,
He chased a wild horse, he caught him and rode him,
He shot the white-browed mountain tiger,
He defied the yellow-bristled Horseman of Ye.
Fighting single- handed for a thousand miles,
With his naked dagger he could hold a multitude.
…Granted that the troops of China were as swift as heaven’s thunder
And that Tartar soldiers perished in pitfalls fanged with iron,
General Wei Qing’s victory was only a thing of chance.
And General Li Guang’s thwarted effort was his fate, not his fault.
Since this man’s retirement he is looking old and worn:
Experience of the world has hastened his white hairs.
Though once his quick dart never missed the right eye of a bird,
Now knotted veins and tendons make his left arm like an osier.
He is sometimes at the road-side selling melons from his garden,
He is sometimes planting willows round his hermitage.
His lonely lane is shut away by a dense grove,
His vacant window looks upon the far cold mountains
But, if he prayed, the waters would come gushing for his men
And never would he wanton his cause away with wine.
…War-clouds are spreading, under the Helan Range;
Back and forth, day and night, go feathered messages;
In the three River Provinces, the governors call young men —
And five imperial edicts have summoned the old general.
So he dusts his iron coat and shines it like snow-
Waves his dagger from its jade hilt in a dance of starry steel.
He is ready with his strong northern bow to smite the Tartar chieftain —
That never a foreign war-dress may affront the Emperor.
…There once was an aged Prefect, forgotten and far away,
Who still could manage triumph with a single stroke.


少年十五二十时, 步行夺得胡马骑。
射杀山中白额虎, 肯数邺下黄须儿。
一身转战三千里, 一剑曾当百万师。
汉兵奋迅如霹雳, 虏骑崩腾畏蒺藜。
卫青不败由天幸, 李广无功缘数奇。
自从弃置便衰朽, 世事蹉跎成白首。
昔时飞箭无全目, 今日垂杨生左肘。
路旁时卖故侯瓜, 门前学种先生柳。
苍茫古木连穷巷, 寥落寒山对虚牖。
誓令疏勒出飞泉, 不似颍川空使酒。
贺兰山下阵如云, 羽檄交驰日夕闻。
节使三河募年少, 诏书五道出将军。
试拂铁衣如雪色, 聊持宝剑动星文。
愿得燕弓射大将, 耻令越甲鸣吾君。
莫嫌旧日云中守, 犹堪一战取功勋。


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